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Dr Cindy Zeiher


University of Canterbury, College of Arts, School of Languages, Political and Social Sciences


White Noise of Desire



This paper considers two related propositions, which are interrogated as part of the Lacanian struggle for subjective articulation. The first proposition is that information and communication technologies retain their autonomy beyond the subject and the second is that digital technologies are a product of their storage and containment. Preserving and reproducing digital technologies constitutes a commanding of desire for continuity, a command which bypasses the struggle to articulate what we really desire. However, this command is not without a cost. Digital technologies command us to integrate them into our daily lives as a unique discursive network, despite this network not being entirely visible to us. Digital technology carries with it a distinctive logic enabling the subject to at will appear and disappear, to speak and not to speak. The desire of subjects of digital technology can never fully be revealed because it is obfuscated by this very technology manifesting as an illusory device, which subjects seek in order to respond to their desire. Thus, digital technology operates as Lacan’s twenty-first century Master by signifying not only what we desire, but also how we ought to desire.


Here subjective desire takes on a distinctly contemporary form. For the subject, it manifests as background noise which cannot be escaped and which oscillates between the subject and the conditions within which the subject is situated, namely those of capitalism. Although desire under capitalism disintegrates, rendering the subject destitute and alienated, is this necessary the case for desire with regard to digital technology? After all digital technology still demands that we ‘speak’, notwithstanding such speech takes on a different articulation. The opacity of this different articulation is a deliberate trick on the part of digital technology; subjects who embrace it retain desires yet at the same time they are embracing a technology devoid of desire. Here digital technology operates here as a gallantry of desire which is self-validating, fleeting and illusory. Furthermore, digital technology enables a subjective short circuit to operate: in dispensing with historical and traditional modes of articulation, subjects of digital technology are not expected to maintain the traditional struggle with desire. Such de-emphasis is, it can be argued, a manifestation of the interpellation of both digital culture and capitalism. However, desire being a human condition which never be avoided, together with today’s subjective interpellation within digital technology, renders desire as ‘white noise’, a constant background signalling approximation between subjects and their capitalist contexts in the digital age.


To consider these propositions we look specifically to two films: Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Best Offer (2013) and Frances, Ford Coppoloa’s, The Conversation (1974).



Cindy Zeiher is a lecturer in the School of Language, Social and Political Sciences at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Her writings and publications are in the areas of Lacanian psychoanalysis, politics, science and social theories. Together with Todd McGowan she has recently edited and contributed to a collection of essays, Can Philosophy Love? Reflections and Encounters (2017, Rowman and Littlefield International) and is currently co-authoring a book with Ed Pluth, On Silence: Holding the Voice Hostage (2018, Lacan Palgrave Series). She is co-editor, with Mike Grimshaw, of the journal, CT&T: Continental Thought and Theory.